Nod your head if you’ve ever heard someone say something like this to you in reference to some way they’ve let you or someone else down: “I can’t help it. That’s just how I am.”
Now nod your head if you’ve ever said that yourself. (I’m nodding.)
The problem is, that sentiment is completely untrue. You can help it probably more than you think.
Sometime in my early teens I was blessed with some friends who loved me enough to tell me when I was wrong. During this time, I went to a private Christian school and was an overachiever to the max (as were all my friends), so breaks were reserved for homework, lunchtimes were obviously meant for meetings with teachers or ASB members, and after school was either meant for sports or homework. End of story. So when one of my (still) best friends wanted to find a time to confront me about something, she had to be determined and creative.
Luckily, she possessed both of those characteristics, in addition to guts. She spoke with our teacher just before class and got his permission to let us step out for a few moments to have an important conversation. You can imagine how surprised I was. She sat me down at a picnic table outside and confronted me on something that I had excused under the “that’s just my personality” category.
There she was, pointing out my blind spot. Exposing my weakness. Shining light on what was actually my sin. And it SUCKED. My pride was being challenged, and how I chose to respond would either propel me into being more of who God created me to be, or keep me stuck in my unwholeness and pride.
Thankfully, I chose the first option. Through that particular circumstance and others similar to it, I learned two things that ultimately changed my life for the better: 1. I’m not perfect, and I need to get over it; 2. Accepting constructive criticism from those I trust will ultimately make me better and stronger.
Fifteen years later, I’m still learning this, still trying to accept it, still suffering through the bitter taste of being humbled. But I never regret it.
Here’s the gist: Just because it’s “how we are” doesn’t mean it’s okay. Our personalities may lend themselves naturally to certain strengths and weaknesses, but it doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility of strengthening those weaknesses. Why is that important? Because a kinder, more gracious, more loving, more secure, more thoughtful, stronger, more compassionate, smarter, wiser me benefits not only me, but also those around me, and honors the Lord.
I would suggest that insisting on a “that’s just how I am” mentality is doing some of us more harm than good. It’s stunting our growth and certainly giving the enemy a foothold in our lives.
Here’s what I recommend (and what I try to do myself): Ask yourself what weak spots you know of that you’ve been excusing under the “that’s just how I am” category, and admit that God created to you to be something far better than that. Ask a trusted friend to help you in your growth process. If a friend has tried to point something out that they think is hindering your life but you’ve had a stubborn streak, do the right thing and humble yourself, ask for forgiveness, and get to work. Lastly, ask a friend to shed some light on a blind spot in your life. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through them, and commit to overcoming your weakness.
With Christ as our example, the Word and the Holy Spirit as our guide, a little (or lot) of humility, and some accountability and loving perspective, we don’t have to be bound to our weaknesses.